Birmingham City defender Liam Ridgewell was delighted to see his former Aston Villa team-mate Kevin Phillips get off the mark as Blues opened their Coca-Cola Championship assault against Sheffield United at the weekend.
Phillips’ goal in the third minute of injury time was enough to give Blues three points against the Blades and kick-start their season and Ridgewell – who was joined at Villa Park between 2005 and 2006 by Phillips – was thrilled his 35-year-old pal was the dividing factor in Blues’ 1-0 victory.
The Birmingham centre-back said: “It was a tough match and it was just good to get the goal in what really was a last-gasp effort. Kev came off the bench and did what he always does.
“There was such tension out there with it being first game of the season and we wanted to do a good job and get a good start as did all the Championship sides.
“It was just nice to get that goal and settle the nerves now for the season.”
Ridgewell was not at all surprised to see his old team-mate make the difference. Phillips has scored on four of his six debuts during his playing career and last year missed out on the Championship’s Golden Boot for league goals by only one goal – his 22-goal tally just pipped by Wolves’ striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
Ridgewell said: “Kev did what he is expected to do and I am not surprised at all though I am surprised West Brom let him go because he could still be doing that and scoring goals in the Premier League. He is a fanastic player and I am just glad that he is on our side to be honest.
“I am sure he is just concentrating on getting goals now and maybe feels he has to prove one or two wrong. But he has been there and done it and he has got nothing to prove really. If he keeps banging the goals in he will have a teriffic season.”
Ridgewell – a successful product of the Villa youth academy system – moved to St Andrew’s in a £2 million deal last season. He said he had not had to give his friend too much advice on bridging the cross-city divide from Villa to Blues – albeit in Phillips’ case via The Hawthorns.
He said: “ Kev is old enough and wise enough to know what to do and has come over which is great. As long as he goes out and plays like he did against United then I don’t think anyone is going to be too bothered that he came from a rival club. I haven’t really spoken to him about that. It is just about getting on with the job and doing it well.”
Ridgewell continued: “Kev has got a good head on his shoulders and he knows where to run and gets goals so it should be a good season.
“Whenever I have had to mark him in training he has always been a nightmare and everytime he has played against me too! He runs off you and he is a little bugger but he is fantastic.
“I got on well with him at Villa and when we were in Austria with Blues in pre-season. He is a fantastic fella and he gets the goals.
“He scored 22 last season and could he get more this time? I think so. I am hoping he does. I am sure he is looking to do that and at least get close to that again this season.”
Ridgewell was happy with his own performance and that of his fellow defenders on Saturday against the Blades – particularly in keeping a clean sheet.
He said: “It was a great game for the defence. Tiny (Martin Taylor) and Parno (Stuart Parnaby) and Murph (David Murphy) all did well with Maik (Taylor) behind us as well. It was good to get a clean sheet to start the season and hopefully we can take that into the other games.
Former Middlesborough right-back Parnaby won the chance to start the game with Stephen Kelly out with a groin strain.
Ridgewell said: “Kell missed out and Parno put in a good performance. It is going to be a difficult season and everyone is going to have their part to play. Our centre forwards will certainly be staking a claim for a place up front and I am sure it will be the same at right back.
“But competition for places keeps us all on our toes and keeps us all hungry.”